Having managed constituency campaigns for the PCAA in 2008 and 2012, I am enjoying the perspective of being a more casual volunteer this time around. I deeply respect those running for office—of all political stripes—and their hard-working volunteers. The NDP, under the determined leadership of Rachel Notley, is proving most interesting to watch. While I am not ideologically aligned with the NDP, I would like to make some observations on its aim to paint Edmonton and beyond with an orange brush.

The NDP is running a scripted, professional and effective campaign. From visuals at announcements (see below picture) to social media, the NDP has upped its game in this election. Like the PC party, the approach is largely based on Notley’s image and name, with constituency candidates taking a backseat. As a long-time MLA of political pedigree and a lawyer, Notley is competent and strong while also being approachable. For the first time since her father was leader, the NDP is poised to make major gains in Edmonton—its current powerbase. The NDP appeared to be the only opposition party ready for the writ drop, with a full slate of candidates ready to go. No party could legitimately claim to have been caught off-guard by the widely telegraphed election, but the NDP was organized and proactive in a way that the Wildrose found difficult after facing mass defections and the Liberals didn’t attempt. This is a party striving hard to be the next Official Opposition.

Courtesy NDP Facebook Page

In the lead up to the writ drop, the NDP was in full-scale election mode, with a 10,000-doors campaign—aiming to knock on 10,000 doors in the province—even advertising for door knockers, offering $20 an hour. Clearly, the NDP has a solid war chest and is more determined than ever to get its message out. Kudos to them. Door knocking is not a glamourous job: battling grumpy people, angry dogs, snow, wind and rain. While I don’t know how many were hired and how many volunteered, the move gained media attention as well as increasing presence at the doors.
The NDP is strategically rolling out its platform rather than revealing it all at the start of the campaign. But now, almost two weeks in, there is still not a clear picture of NDP policy. All other parties have now shown their cards, but the NDP has yet to show Albertans what it stands for. Is it that—despite its organization on other fronts—it has not finalized its policies, or that it has instead focused on attacking the governing party policy platform? While spreading policy announcements over several days is advisable to maximize exposure, too slow a release of policies can hamper donations and support.
Policies released to date are along usual NDP lines and include a new tax break and an office to monitor royalties. The later issue strikes at the heart of the oil and gas industry currently suffering from depressed oil prices. The last attempt to change royalties proved detrimental to Ed Stelmach’s PC leadership. Still, polls are showing small inroads in Calgary, where previously the Liberals held position as the left-of-centre choice, with Joe Ceci, former city councillor, the best chance of gaining a seat.
Meanwhile, the team is having fun on Twitter, for example posting “Extremists of the day” awards and playfully alluding to the 44 years of PC rule. And, Notley is in fine-form with her quip, “It’s clear he has a sweet tooth but needs a wisdom tooth,” when asked about Wildrose Rick Strankman’s poster controversy.
A first black-eye on the NDP’s campaign landed last weekend when former Medicine Hat candidate Jason Soklofske was charged with simple assault after a door-knocking altercation. The NDP reacted swiftly, removing his name from its website and social media.
But if last weekend’s “Rally for Change”—where several hundred gathered, overflowing into the lobby—is any indication, Notley’s message is resonating in the capital. She is showing that her party is a viable and credible choice at the ballot box. Watch out for Notley on May 5!